- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

Dodge trucks are a favorite among the folks who travel many miles with a trailer of some sort tagging along behind. There is a simple reason; they are powerful and provide the comfort these folks demand for their crosscountry expeditions. Of course, there are other competent trucks, each with its own attributes. However, Dodge has just raised the bar on trucking capabilities, with the help of two engines, one gasoline-powered and the other diesel-fueled.

The HEMI engine returns to the Dodge lineup through an all-new 5.7-liter V-8 powering the Dodge Ram Heavy Duty. In typical HEMI tradition, this V-8 produces 345 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque.

The venerable Cummins Diesel produces a monstrous 555 foot-pounds of torque.

I was given the opportunity to take different versions of the Ram Heavy Duty truck out for testing and found that even when I loaded each down with a full cargo bed, or strapped on a car-carrier trailer loaded with competing trucks, the Ram performed extremely well.

The HEMI engine was the ultimate power plant in muscle cars of the 1960s. Just the word HEMI struck fear in many opponents at the local drag strip. If you were lucky enough to have parents who thought it was important to have the best of the best, then you did everything you could to talk them into letting you have the keys to the family wheels on Saturday night.

Taking design cues from the standard Ram, the Heavy Duty offers up all the comfort and convenience you could ever want.

This interior would be equally at home in any passenger car, and is welcomed in this rough and rugged truck setting. The seats are firm, yet not enough to induce fatigue. They hold passengers securely, yet comfortably and provide plenty of room to stretch out.

The popular center fold-down office space has been refined to offer more convenient storage of a notebook computer, cell phone and all the sundry supplies you might carry.

Like all Ram trucks, the Heavy Duty has the redesigned large horse collar grille that has become so familiar. Only now, it is even larger and bolder.

Even if you are not an avid fan, you must admit the Ram makes a statement. It is the statement of a hearty and extremely capable truck. This wasn't just an exercise in making design changes; the larger grille allows extra cooling air into the engine compartment, helping to keep these big engines happy.

As you might expect, a heavy-duty truck deserves a heavy-duty suspension system. Of course, Dodge engineers came through with a system that is able to provide heavy-duty capabilities with superior ride and handling. Utilizing hydroformed boxed frame rails adds tremendous rigidity to this truck. It also allows the suspension engineers a tremendous platform on which to build an excellent suspension system. Two-wheel-drive versions get independent front suspension, while four-wheel-drive versions get a five-link system combined with beam axles. These combinations are, according to Dodge, the ones demanded by their customers.

It has also been our experience that consumers who buy heavy-duty four-wheel-drive trucks want the solidness provided by ridged axles.

Cargo capacities run the gamut of what you would expect of a heavy-duty truck. Whether it is a load of gravel, an overhead camper or a multivehicle car hauler, the Dodge Ram HD is able to handle the job. With more than 3,500 pounds of cargo in the bed, I drove up a number of long mountain grades with ease.

Strapping on a large ramp-style car hauler loaded with the competitor's trucks, the Cummins Diesel-powered Ram idled away from stops and accelerated up to highway speeds without effort.

I was impressed with the redesigned Ram from the start, and now that I've been able to put the new Heavy Duty Ram to the test I am even more impressed. True, not everyone needs a heavy-duty truck. However, buyers who gravitate toward heavy-duty trucks want capabilities that far exceed the standard pickup.

Their expectations will be more than satisfied with the new Dodge Ram Heavy Duty.

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